DJ Vail’s fifteen minutes of meteorite fame

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That’s DJ at a roadside parking lot just off Interstate 94 on the Minnesota side of the border near Hudson, Wisconsin.

I’ve captured her in a photograph from May 5th describing the path of what she believes was a meteorite. She saw it while cruising down the freeway on a weekday afternoon in 2007.

Turns out quite a number of folks reported seeing the fireball. DJ called a weather person to report the observation and ended up being quoted in newspapers and some TV reports.

That’s how I found her. Once you’ve been quoted in the media, bingo, you are marked for life and even the simplest online searches – the only kind I do – can find you. And it helps that DJ is a very welcoming person who is comfortable describing what she saw.

What she saw was a fireball in the sky landing just north of the freeway somewhere, well, somewhere over there.

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Yes, somewhere in that patch of rolling countryside with some scattered housing and a golf course.

Didn't take long for the meteorite hunters to get in contact with DJ, and one asked if DJ would lead her to the site. Meteorite hunters get very excited about the space rocks because the market value for the rare ones can exceed the value of gold – by a lot.

Sure, DJ, said to the meteorite hunter, we can take a looksee, and what they found were rocks. Lots of rocks. Like this.

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In fact, Minnesota is home to a lot of rocks. Thus not an easy place to find meteorites. Oh, they’re out there alright. University of Minnesota earth sciences professor Calvin Alexander, a meteorite expert, estimates ten or more meteorites of some size land in Minnesota every year.

But try to find one?

Alexander’s been a U prof for forty years. He says in that time more than 10,000 folks have shown up at his office with rocks. He’s judged only two have found actual honest to goodness space rocks.

Alexander says in Minnesota, you might have some luck finding meteorites in the Red River Valley. Miles and miles of farm fields, not many rocks, and thus the odds of one of them being a meteorite rises. A little.

Curious to know more? I’ll have a Minnesota Sounds & Voices story on All Things Considered this afternoon.

One of the state’s most significant meteorites was found in the Red River Valley near the town of Fisher – in l894. Not too many reports since then.

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